Summer Comes Soonest in the South
The classic Southern Railway poster told us that with a King Arthur locomotive “Summer Comes Soonest in the South” so we took the NRM’s “Sir Lamiel” No. 30777 to Swanage to find out. She arrived after the “Royal Wessex” Railway Touring Company trip on the 22nd of May, and was booked to leave on Bank Holiday Monday the 31st of May, giving her just over a week at the seaside. We had hoped that she would work some trains for the Swanage Railway while she was there, but we also needed to carry out some maintenance tasks and take her to Eastleigh for turning which meant that she couldn’t work any of Swanage Railway’s trains on this visit.
It’s a long way to Swanage from the Midlands (and even further from Yorkshire!) so the support crew made their way down to the south coast over the weekend, Gerry arrived first and set the stall out, to be joined on Sunday by Hugh, Tom, Alison & Nick – a happy band of five support crew members.
The first job was to sort out the grate; the firebars in 30777 are unlike midland type bars, in that they are supported in a comb instead of hung from carrier bars as on many engines. This means that they need careful attention to avoid a build up of ash below the bar which can lead to grate problems and affect steaming. While Hugh was sorting out the grate, Tom and Nick set to work changing the axlebox dust covers while the rest of the team concentrated on cleaning and the other essential jobs. Once the grate was sorted out we were able to get the fire lit and start the process of warming her through slowly. The charter was booked off Swanage at 16.11 on Monday, which gave us a whole day to get steam up and ready to go.
Work carried on into the evening as usual, stopping just in time to get washed off and arrive for last orders at the chip shop. After a chip supper on the sea front in the company of a trio of sea-ducks (did you know that Mallards frequent salt water? No, nor did we.) We went in search of further refreshment and an early night.
The next morning we were up and working in good time, despite the relatively late departure time this was no time for lying in bed. While we worked we could see the Swanage crews prepping their engine for the service trains across the way on shed (we were on the goods shed road). Once we’d got the job well underway it was time for breakfast; Tom was cook for the morning and set about the job in fine style, putting together a fine plateful of food. Despite the excellent cooking, Nick failed to finish his breakfast. Possibly he was saving space for an ice cream later in the day – he was adamant that there was no way he was leaving the Seaside without an ice cream.
After breakfast we went across to the shed for coal and to clean the ashpans. Mel Cox of Swanage Railway had called by earlier to explain the arrangements and introduce the driver who’d be taking us across and back. The coaling was done using a conveyor, and Matt one of Swanage’s locomen kindly stood by with a hose to slack the coal as it was loaded in the tender.
With the ash pit duties completed we went back across the road to await the charter. We’d heard that the charter was delayed, first it was about half an hour late, then soon afterwards we were told that it was nearly an hour down. This wasn’t going to affect us much as the time would mostly be shaved off the layover in Swanage. While we waited for the charter we took ourselves up onto the platform to get Nick’s ice cream – of course we all had to have one as well to keep him company!
44871 arrived looking splendid at the head of the charter (despite a huge soft spot for Lamiel, I have to admit to a strong preference for Stanier engines so it’s a good thing that our “Flagship” locomotive is a Black Five!) The West Coast crew arrived with the charter – Dave Hewson and Dave Wright, plus the MOM for the movement across the link between Swanage Railway and Network Rail. We left Swanage about half an hour later than planned, with Mel Cox driving the Swanage Railway section, he fired her on the turning move and has developed a strong liking for the Arthur during her stay. Mel and the MOM left us at Wareham and we set off for London. Lamiel gave us a good performance, taking Parkstone bank in her stride and spitting sparks back out of the firehole door like she used to do in the old days. It’s a bit early to say for certain, but we have done a lot of work to try to rekindle her sparkle so fingers crossed!
Hugh rejoined the train at Eastleigh, having taken the car to Southall, he said he’d done the Swanage to Eastleigh section twice this week and was prepared to miss out on a third go (even if it was chimney first) if it meant that we had a car to go home in at the end of the trip.
After Eastleigh we gradually pulled time back; we were 34 minutes late leaving Swanage but we left the water stop just 25 minutes late due to slick work by John from BTT and our team, and we pulled back another 5 minutes at the Basingstoke water stop (thanks also to another BTT driver for his help) after that, we pulled the delay down to 3½ minutes on arrival at Waterloo through the efforts of Lamiel via Dave Hewson and Dave Wright. Then it was a leisurely trot backwards through night-time London dragged by the diesel at the far end of the ECS working. On arrival at Southall we checked round and put Lamiel to bed - another job done!
Footnote: While we were out with Lamiel work has been carrying on at Loughborough: The five’s elements are going into the header, Cromwell is being stripped and the support coach finishing is down to fiddly small jobs.